Designing new ‘Park+Ways’ for Philadelphia

By David Bender on Mar 08, 2018

Smart Weave, the $5,000 First Place winning entry in the 2018 Better Philadelphia Challenge

Author: David Bender

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Philadelphia’s grand Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Center for Architecture and Design’s Ed Bacon Memorial Committee challenged university students around the world to develop new ideas for a ‘Park+Way’ in either South, West, or North Philadelphia. Instead of encouraging students to develop a plan requiring the demolition of 1,300 buildings, as was done to produce the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the committee asked students to develop new concepts for what a ‘Park+Way’ could be – one that connects residents and visitors in Philadelphia neighborhoods to nearby natural and cultural resources.


Design concept for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway by Paul Crét and Jacques Gréber, 1917

The challenge asked students to consider a multitude of factors in their designs, including:

  • How their designs will make it easier for (and encourage) residents to find and visit the natural resources and cultural institutions located within and near their neighborhoods
  • Which existing and future civic institutions (such as libraries, health clinics, rec centers, police stations, pools, etc.) should be connected by their Park+Way designs
  • How their designs could improve the health of: residents and visitors, the city’s natural spaces, wildlife, and the region
  • How their designs could help the city with its goal of diverting the first inch or more of rainwater during heavy storms from our sewers, to reduce overflows of our combined sewer system
  • How their designs could create passageways to allow wildlife the ability to migrate between and among Philadelphia’s existing green and aquatic spaces
  • And what new technologies could be incorporated into their designs to support all the above goals

The competition, as always, was juried by a selection of invited professionals whose backgrounds and jobs uniquely position them to provide thoughtful analysis of the appropriateness and feasibility of the proposed concepts. This year’s jury consisted of:

  • Kaelyn Anderson | Director of Economic Development, New Kensington Community Development Corporation
  • Prema Gupta | Senior Vice President of Navy Yard Planning and Real Estate Development, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation
  • Diana Lind | Managing Director, Penn Fels Policy Research Initiative
  • Aparna Palantino | Deputy Commissioner for Capital Infrastructure and Natural Lands Management, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
  • Naomi Roberson Reid | Civic Engagement Manager, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. Recent former Coordinator of Community Programs, Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Second and Third place entries this year both came from teams at the University of Maryland. The Third Place proposal, Hidden River, by Blair Danies, Akin Jaiye, and Sara Sarnwald, addressed Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia. Their proposed green median for Lehigh Avenue intends to calm traffic, beautify the corridor, and soak up stormwater. Their designs for pedestrian lookouts over the Schuylkill River were also complimented by the jury.


Design for lookouts over and pathways to the Schuylkill River from the Hidden River entry


Third Place winning team, Hidden River: Sara Sarnwald, Blair Danies, + Akin Jaiye

The Second Place project, Community Ties, by Jenny Dibra, Katherine Hare, and Simone Vitale, focused on South Broad Street. Their concept included narrowing and curving South Broad Street to calm traffic and provide dedicated space for busses and bikes. They also proposed high-density residential projects near the stadiums to activate the neighborhood when games and concerts are not taking place. Their concept also proposed uncovering some of the historic streams which have been filled in and built on over the past 150 years, providing more natural spaces for residents, wildlife, and native plants.


South Broad Street as reimagined by the Community Ties entry


Second Place winning team, Community Ties: Katherine Hare, Simone Vitale, + Jenny Dibra

The $5,000 First Place proposal, Smart Weave by Samuel Fantaye of the University of New Mexico, proposed an intricate network of sidewalks, pathways, and nodes of green and cultural spaces along the Lehigh Avenue corridor in North Philadelphia. The proposed pathways were not limited to Lehigh Avenue, but extending into the adjoining neighborhoods, encouraging people to discover the surrounding communities. In addition, his proposal included bio-swales to capture stormwater, solar power collectors which doubled as rainwater collectors, and smart screens which provide information to visitors about nearby amenities and the history of the adjoining neighborhoods.


The intricate network of pathways and parks along the Lehigh Avenue corridor in North Philadelphia from the Smart Weave entry


First Place winning team (of one!): Samuel Fantaye (and parents)

More detailed images of the winning entries and full presentation boards can be viewed here. The competition and the proposed creative solutions tied in with the globally-influential projects of the Center’s 2018 Edmund N. Bacon Award winner, Enrique Peñalosa, Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia – whose talk at the awards ceremony will be covered in our next blog post.